Sunday, 3 April 2016

Palmyra recaptured: doom or hope?

Temple of Bel before and after
(linked from the Mashable web site, original Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

I was going to write this blog post about Florence and its marvellous archaeological museums, but once again, the real life events have meant that I have to postpone the cavalcade of beautiful photos and discussion of Italian input into different fields of archaeology to another day. Suddenly, Palmyra is 'free' again. Considering the social media and newspaper output, there is about two general lines of taking this news. Either we lament the lost treasures, which were many - and we do not yet know how many archaeological sites within were plundered and robbed - or we celebrate what is left. No matter how reconstructed it may be.

Not Florence, yet

I can declare from the start my point of view: I hope that we can take a hopeful view in the long term. Yes, there are heartbreaking destruction and two main temples are no more. However, the site still exists and now it will stand for resilience against parties that do not have respect towards the achievements of others or value of a shared history but only can prosper when bringing destruction and sufferance to others who do not share their specific point of view. The stones are still there - and we may be able to see the destruction as a monument to other people's care and ultimate sacrifice, pride and preservation of our common heritage. I am more shaken of the news of displacement, cruelty and pointless deaths in the desert.

Our shared heritage in the southern Mediterranean

However, what the future brings is still unclear. As it has been pointed out, the 'liberators' may not have always been such 'preservers' as they may now hope to be seen. We have broken countries, looted tombs, broken people and human sufferance that does not currently have an end date. The modern Palmyra is a ghost town, the bombed shells of houses standing as they do in Aleppo and other scenes of battle. When we can recapture personally Palmyra and other sites of world heritage across Syria and Iraq we do not know. The mapping of archaeology, the historic photo collections, the virtual reconstructions - there are many routes people have already taken and the destruction has woken a community. There may be more doom on the cards, but I see signs of hope.

The destruction in the Palmyra Museum is apparent from The Guardian.
The drone footage shows what is standing.
The before and after images are not a pretty sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment